Gov. Maura Healey has signed a fiscal 2024 supplemental budget bill that provides funding for the state’s emergency shelter system, places new limits on shelter stays, and codifies pandemic-era authorizations related to outdoor dining and to-go cocktails.

The $426 million bill was enacted by the House and Senate on April 25, a day after it was released by a House-Senate conference committee. The governor signed it on April 30.

The new law codifies local licensing authority for permits for expanded outdoor dining and allows to-go cocktails with take out food orders, excluding beer and wine. Both of these popular pandemic-era provisions had expired on April 1.

The law appropriates $251 million from the state’s transitional escrow account to fund ongoing emergency shelter needs through the end of fiscal 2024, while allowing another $175 million to be pulled from the account for fiscal 2025. The transitional escrow account was created in recent fiscal years when the state realized substantial surplus revenue.

The law establishes a nine-month limit on the length of stay for families in emergency shelters. Families are eligible for up to two 90-day extensions if they meet certain requirements, including if they are employed, in a training program, pregnant or disabled. The law allows for a further hardship waiver in certain circumstances, but these must be certified by the state housing secretary.

Some of the law’s shelter funding would be dedicated to workforce development, with the goal of helping families exit the system, including $10 million for an approved training program.

Roughly 7,500 families are enrolled in the state’s emergency assistance shelter program, according to the administration’s shelter data dashboard, with about half of them living in overflow accommodations in hotels and motels in communities across the state.

On March 18, Healey filed an additional fiscal 2024 supplemental budget bill aimed at funding human services and early education programs. The second bill, totalling $535 million, would be funded primarily through federal reimbursements, using just over $88 million in state spending. That bill is now with the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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